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How To Take A Real Vacation From Your Business

I spent time recently taking a complete break from my business. I handled one time sensitive task over email but had done all of my work for the task ahead of time so that all I had to do was forward an email to my printer. I spent my time hanging out with my family and enjoying being with them. I read a lot of books (I think 5!). And I slept late since I wasn’t trying to fit work in when the kids were asleep.

It was amazing.

Family Vacation - Jenn Elwell

When I got back I did have some work that required my immediate attention but taking an actual, 100% break from the business meant that I was refreshed and excited about getting back to my tasks and wasn’t still worn out like I was before I left. I found myself working much faster yesterday than I have been lately just because I had more energy.

I want to encourage you to take some time this summer to step away from your business too. Whether it’s simply totally disconnecting for the weekend or for a week or two while you go on vacation, try to take time to rest and take your mind off of the constant pressures that you face when you run your own business.

To help you disconnect I’ve got three tips that will help you step away if you simply do a little planning.

Take A Real Vacation From Your Business - Jenn Elwell

Prepare your clients

Your clients should want you to be your best self which requires taking a step back from your business every once in a while. As long as you fulfill your responsibilities to them they should only be happy for you (and if they aren’t, maybe you should find new clients!). But you don’t need to just announce that you’re leaving for a seven day vacation tomorrow and expect them to be happy about it. Bring it up in a client meeting a few weeks before you leave and explain how you will fulfill your commitments either before you leave or when you return to keep their project on track. If you don’t have ongoing clients but work on a quicker turnaround, post an image to your social media accounts, update your status in your Etsy shop (or put it in vacation mode or extend your turnaround times), and send an email to your list to manage their expectations. You don’t have to tell them that you’re leaving your house unless you want to (there are privacy concerns, of course) but simply announce that you’re taking some time to recharge and will be back at work on a certain date ready to put some exciting new plans in place!

Plan your email strategy

We probably all have our work email on our phone which can be a blessing and a curse. Before you leave plan your email strategy. Take advantage of the tools that most email servers have like auto-filtering and archiving messages. If you set it up to put the emails that you know you’ll need to deal with first when you get back in one folder and put everything else in another then you’ll know where your sorting needs to occur first when you get back. This will not only allow you to not be overwhelmed with your inbox when you get back, but always keep it under control! You can also leverage tools like vacation mode or an autoresponder to let anyone who emails you know that you’re currently out of the office but will reply by a certain date. This will take care of managing expectations for any new clients that email you while you’re gone.

Find a solution for anything that can’t be deferred until you get back

Take a look at everything that you have going on for your business and figure out a way to handle anything that can’t be delayed until you return from your time off. This might mean setting up automation systems or hiring someone to outsource those tasks to while you’re gone. There are a variety of ways that you can handle these types of tasks without having to do them yourself manually. (If you need some help setting these types of things up I currently have an offer that does just that for only $99.) And, in reality, unless your company is really large there should only be a few things that absolutely can’t be put on the back burner until you return from vacation.

I know that I feel like a new woman after taking a solid week to myself and my family. I love my business but working on it every day takes a lot of energy and dedication and it was nice to let those things go while I was gone and just focus on enjoying time with my family.

If you have any questions about how to implement the things that I’ve discussed in this email or want to chat more, please feel free to email me. I love talking with moms in business and would love to talk with you. And, as a bonus, you’ll get back my autoresponder that’s always on for my inbox and you’re welcome to swipe the copy and make it work for you!

Business

How To Survive The Summer As A Work At Home Mom

The season that kids love and moms have a love/hate relationship with is here. It’s summer. And while your kids probably have a long list of activities and projects that they want to do to make their summer fun and enjoyable, you might be sitting back and wondering how in the world you’re supposed to get all of your work done with your little ones underfoot.

Survive The Summer As A Work At Home Mom - Jenn Elwell

You’re not alone. This is a problem for all work at home moms and can be solved in a variety of ways. One, you can hire a nanny or someone to take care of your kids during the day and sequester yourself in your office. Two, you can move your work hours to the early morning or late night and only work when your kids are asleep. Or three, you can figure out how to balance work and having your kids home.

No matter which option you choose your role as Mom is secure. I’m a big believer in “You do what you gotta do” and that still applies here. You’re not a better or worse mom no matter how you choose to handle the summer. And you’re doing the best you can regardless. So don’t let a fear of not measuring up cause you to miss out on a chance to enjoy the summer season.

So how can your survive no matter how you choose to approach the summer?

Get clear on your priorities.

Does it have to get done this summer? Does it have to be done by you? What can you outsource or automate? What are your priorities for the summer and how can you make them a reality? By asking yourself these kinds of questions you can get clear on exactly what is important to you this summer and what is only on your to-do list if there’s extra time.

Recognize that “balance” is impossible.

Especially in the summer you’re never going to get a perfectly balanced life. What you want is to create a sense of equilibrium so that you work is getting taken care of and is in a good place when you’re having fun with your family and your family is well taken care of when you’re working. Don’t try to keep up the same schedule you had while they were in school, everything will need to be adjusted during this season.

Acknowledge that there are benefits to your kids seeing you work.

I think it’s really important for our kids to see us making time to pursue our dreams even if it means they have to take a back seat for a little while. It’s also important for our kids to know how to entertain themselves. After all, that’s when they get to really use their imaginations and strengthen that muscle that might have gotten rusty during the school year. So don’t be afraid to set aside some time when your kids are awake as work time. Just make sure to explain the “rules” to them ahead of time like what they can interrupt you for and what you expect them to be doing while you’re working.

Don’t forget to take care of you.

Whether you trade out babysitting duties with a fellow mom or talk to your husband about taking more breaks once he gets home from work, don’t forget about yourself over the summer months. You need time not only to keep your business going but also to recharge and refuel yourself. Make a plan at the beginning of the summer and then stick with it throughout the months. You’ll be glad you thought to schedule time in for yourself especially as the summer days seem to drag on.

The beginning of summer can be a huge adjustment to moms who go from having their kids in school a lot of the time to having very little kid free time. While we all love our kids, we know it’s not easy being a mom and when you add in working on your own business the stress can be astronomical. But I know with a few minutes taken to evaluate and plan what your ideal summer will look like, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy the gift that this time with your kids is instead of enduring it.

Business

Mamapreneur 101 | How To Create A Client Persona

Last week I talked about why it’s important to create a client persona for your business. If you missed the post on why you need a client persona, go back and read it in case you’re not sure if you really need one.

But today I want to share some ways that you can narrow down a client persona in a way that will really help your business.

 

Physical Attributes

When you’re creating a client persona the easiest place to start is with their physical profile. Envision what your ideal client physically looks like and start writing it down. You’ll include everything from his or her gender to age to hair color. Think about how you see your ideal client and write down every small nugget of information that you can find.

  • Here’s a hint from my upcoming client mini-course: write each letter of the alphabet on a piece of paper and try to come up with an attribute for each letter.

Some of you might be wanting to skip this step because you’re thinking either that you’re stereotyping your clients or that physical attributes don’t matter, but I want to ask you to stop and think about this for a second. How will you know if the people who you include in images related to your brand are people who your ideal client identifies with if you don’t know what your client looks like? People, whether good or bad, like to see themselves reflected in the advertising and marketing for the things that they buy. So, if you’re not sure what your ideal client looks like, you won’t be able to create images that they identify with.

If you feel like you really can’t narrow down the physical attributes of your ideal client into one persona, then consider making no more than three ideal clients and giving each of them physical characteristics. You would assume in this situation that their other attributes are the same and it’s just their physical attributes that differ. When you’re running through ideal client scenarios in your head, you would just envision these few clients as best friends and consider them as a group.

 

Mamapreneur 101 | How To Create A Client Persona - Jenn Elwell

Relational Attributes

After you have identified the physical attributes of your ideal client, move one to the relational attributes. The types of things you want to identify with these are what your client’s family looks like, who they associate with, and how they interact with other people.

  • Another hint from my upcoming client mini-course: write down the numbers 0 through 15 and come up with an attribute for each number (for example, 3 kids or 15 hours of work a week.)

When you’re thinking about the relationships that your ideal client has, don’t forget to think of their relationships outside of their immediate family. This might include their parents, siblings, best friends, acquaintances at their child’s school, or work relationships. You’re thinking through all of these things to help you build a more rounded picture of your ideal client.

 

Location Attributes

Another area of your ideal client that you want to consider is their location. Where they live in the country will determine not only their climate and seasons but also what kind of topics are generally discussed and what extra’s like sports or activities they are involved in.

  • My hint from my upcoming client mini-course for this set of attributes is to draw 5-10 concentric circles and describe the locations of your client in each of those circles moving further and further away from your client.

You not only want to focus on your client’s physical location, but also their online location when you’re thinking about “location.” Which social media sites does your client frequent and what do they use to check their email? Are they even on some social media sites? All of this information will help you narrow down your marketing strategies as you work to find and connect with your ideal client.

Hopefully these three areas will help you create your client persona in a way that is natural and helpful. I’ve found client persona’s to be one of the most simplifying things that I’ve done in my business. Once I had a very detailed client persona, it became easy to filter every decision based on whether it would appeal to my ideal client or not.

Don’t worry about excluding people when you come up with your client persona! Unless you choose to share the information, no one will ever know what your ideal client looks like. And much of your content will attract not only your ideal client but also those who share some similar attributes.

 

 

 

Business

Mamapreneur 101: Why You Need a Client Persona

When you’re just starting your business, you want to make any sale that you can get. Your mom wants something that you don’t currently offer? No problem, you can add it. Your friend needs something customized when you don’t offer customization? That’s fine! You bend over backwards to make any sale you can get and you’re excited about each and every one. But have you ever thought about how doing this sets your business up for failure?

Mamapreneur 101: Why You Need a Client Persona - Jenn Elwell

 

You’ve heard the phrase “an inch deep and a mile wide” and, when you are selling to the entire world, that’s what your business is like.

In trying to sell to everyone – you are actually selling to no one.

    • No one is being drawn to your brand because they identify with you.
    • Repeat customers are few and they’re rarely for the same product or service.
    • And your focus is pulled in a million different directions every day.

 

Mamapreneur 101: Why You Need a Client Persona - Jenn Elwell

Your business is not moving forward, but spreading thin.

 

The solution to moving away from selling to everyone is to create a client persona who embodies the only type of person to whom you are selling. This puts your business in a niche market selling to one type of person.

 

You must get specific with your client persona in order for this to work but, once you have a detailed persona created, all of a sudden your marketing becomes second nature. The time that you were spending trying to please everyone is now spent pleasing your dream clients that are paying you to do exactly what you want to do.

 

 

 

As an example, I’m going to share my client persona for Mama’s Black Book with you. While I’ve decided to pursue other projects right now, due to the amount of work the magazine required, I still have a very clear picture of who the magazine was for.

Mamapreneur 101: Why You Need a Client Persona - Jenn Elwell

       click to enlarge

Do you see how specific I got with my client persona?

Not only does she have an age and a general location but I know what kinds of products she loves to shop for, what brands she wears regularly, and the type of dog that she has!

I am the expert on Analise and being the expert on her makes my marketing decisions incredibly easy…

Should I promote MBB on YouTube?

– No, Analise doesn’t visit it.

Should the pdf version of the magazine be laid out in a full spread or single page?

– Single page, because Analise usually reads it on her iPad and she wants to focus on one page at a time.

 

Knowing exactly who I’m selling to not only makes my job easier but influences all of the smaller decisions regarding my product. I’m able to choose packaging, distribution avenues, colors, and more simply by knowing the type of person Analise is.

 

If you don’t currently have a detailed client persona written down, I encourage you to sit down today and create one. Get as detailed as you can about him or her. You’re going to find that knowing the exact type of person that you are selling to makes it infinitely easier to make decisions about your business. And you can be reassured knowing that creating a client persona doesn’t mean that you can’t sell to buyers that don’t fit your “ideal client” makeup, but it means that everything that you do as a business will attract the kind of clients that you want to get and keep in your business.

Business

What I Learned From My Tax Audit

You’ve been selected for a tax audit” is a scary sentence for a mamapreneur to hear on the phone….and I heard it a month ago. Luckily for me, my local sales tax office chose someone who is terrified of getting in trouble so I had (almost all of) my ducks already in a row. But I was still terrified to get audited and as the big day drew closer, my nerves only intensified.

 * Please note: Some links in this post are affiliate links because I want to share the products that are helpful in my business. These links are denoted with an * before the link and do not cost you anything extra but might provide me with a small percentage of the sale if you were to purchase.

 

Mamapreneur 101: How To Survive A Tax Audit - Jenn Elwell

 

Now that my audit is over I want to share some of my newfound knowledge with you. I’ll dig deeper into the “to do’s” in a later post, but this week let me tell you what I learned from my audit and how it’s changing the way I run my business.

Mamapreneur 101: How To Survive A Tax Audit - Jenn Elwell

  • They aren’t out to get you

So often auditors are painted in a negative light but I was pleasantly surprised to find not only a kind and understanding auditor, but one who told me from the beginning that her department was not concerned with raising funds but with making sure businesses were compliant. Just like having a business license protects you, so does having tax auditors. My local office wants to audit businesses regularly so that they can catch any errors before the fines, fees, and costs skyrocket. And my auditor explained the selection process to me and it sounds like it really is a random selection.

  • An accounting program and an accountant made my audit so much easier

I have an accountant who handles my annual taxes in addition to being a place of reference when I have questions. I also use *Quickbooks for my accounting which has an extensive report repository to pull from. Because I use both of these, gathering my information for my audit was fairly painless. Yes, I did have to print out a number of reports that I hadn’t been printing during my EOM bookkeeping previously, but, in all, gathering the information took no more than a couple of hours. And when I had a question about a form, my accountant was able to quickly email me exactly what I needed.

  • The tax office is an easy source for reliable answers

While myself, and hopefully everyone else that you read about online, works hard to try to provide you with accurate information, there is always the possibility of human error. In addition to that, the tax laws for your city could vary greatly from the tax laws in mine, so what I advise you to do may not have any application where you live. I found that my auditor was not only willing to answer questions about the correct ways to do things but also volunteered to pull specific codes for me and explain them to me so that I could understand exactly how to stay in compliance. I know it seems scary to call the tax office and you could be afraid that you would trigger an audit, but they really do just want to help you do everything right – and no one will be able to answer your questions better than the one who could find all the ways you’re doing it wrong.

Mamapreneur 101: How To Survive A Tax Audit - Jenn Elwell

Overall, my sales tax audit was practically painless. I did discover a few ways that I was unintentionally reporting incorrectly but they are easy fixes to modify as I go forward in my business.  I’m now confident that I’m keeping my books correctly which gives me an incredible peace of mind!

 

Business

Mamapreneur 101: Frequently Asked Questions About Business Licenses

Mamapreneurs often wonder if they really need a business license to conduct their business. Last week I addressed whether or not you need a business license and the answer is in almost all cases “Yes, you do.” But there are some other frequently asked questions about business licenses that I want to address today.

 

Mamapreneur 101: Frequently Asked Questions About Business Licenses

 

Do I need a business license to sell on Etsy?

Yes. Etsy does not require you to have a business license to comply with their terms of service, but your local governing agencies typically require you to have a business license to do business in their jurisdiction. So even if you are only selling on Etsy and never in your city, you will likely be required by your local government to have a business license.

 

Do I need a business if I resell my own stuff (examples: eBay, Poshmark, etc)?

Reselling your own property for a loss potentially means that you don’t need a business license. But that changes if you start making a profit on your sales, purchase items with the sole intent to sell it on the platform, or resell property for a profit. In that case, you will typically need a business license.

 

Do I need a business license if I am only selling online?

Yes. While you may or may not need to set up sales tax reporting if you are only selling online, your local government most likely requires you to have a business license when you are operating a business in their jurisdiction whether or not you are selling in person to those in the area.

Mamapreneur 101: Frequently Asked Questions About Business Licenses

 

How much do business licenses usually cost?

Business license fees are determined by each governing authority so the cost can vary. Typical costs are usually no less than $50. Some areas have a flat business license fee regardless of what type of business you are running. Others will charge based on your revenue and the type of business you’re operating.

 

How soon should I get a business license when I start a business?

A business license is generally required as soon as you start selling products so it’s ideal that you purchase a business license within the month that you start your business. If you wait to purchase a license you might be responsible for fees back to the original start date of your business.

 

Do I need a business license to sell as part of a market or trade show?

For markets in the area where you live, you will most likely be required to have a business license. For markets and shows outside of your normally licensed area, you should check with the market organizer to find out the requirements. Sometimes these types of events procure a license for all out of area shops and include part of the cost of the license in your application fee for the show. Organizers will be able to answer those questions, and if they can’t then you shouldn’t be partnering with the organization because you can’t be sure that they are operating legally.

 

I don’t sell products but only provide a service, do I need a business license?

Yes, no matter what you’re selling, if you’re operating a business you need a business license. [Sales tax may be a different issue but that’s for another day.]

 

How long does a business license usually last?

In general, a business license will typically be good through the remainder of the governing body’s operating year and then will need to be renewed annually.

 

How long does it usually take to get a business license?

The actual process of getting a license will vary based on your location but, when I went down to my city offices, it only took about 15 minutes.

 

Do I need a Federal Employer Identification Number to get a business license?

If you are a sole proprietor then you won’t need an EIN to get a business license because you will be running your business off of your social security number. If you are a different type of entity, you are mostly likely required to have an EIN for operation which would make it required for a business license.

 

I conduct business in several cities, do I have to get a business license in each city?

Yes, if you have a physical place of business (brick and mortar store) or run a business in multiple municipalities regularly, then you will likely need a business license in each of those areas.


Mamapreneur 101: Frequently Asked Questions About Business LicensesHow could the city find my business if I only sell online?

Governing entities use multiple resources to find businesses that are not abiding by their laws. If you have identified yourself anywhere online (social media, Etsy, Facebook profile, etc.), it would be very easy for them to find your business and notify you that you are not in compliance. Most governing bodies don’t have the time, manpower, or money to search out every small business but, if they happen to run across yours, you could be in trouble. If that’s the case, not only may you be liable for back licenses fees but your could also be required to pay penalties and they could deny your request to get a business license.

 

Must I have a business license if I’m not turning a profit?

Yes, you’re running a business even if you’re not turning a profit so you will need a business license.

 

If I have multiple businesses but they are all run from one address, do I need a separate business license for each business?

You should check with your local governing agency but in some cases you might be able to only have one business license and be operating multiple DBAs (“doing business as” businesses) from the one business license.

 

 

 

 

** Please remember that I am not a financial or legal advisor. All information that I offer is based on my own experience and is not to be taken as a replacement for consulting a financial or legal professional. Remember that all advice, articles, and education that you see online pertains to a specific type of business in a specific environment and you should always consult with someone familiar with the laws, guidelines, and best practices of your industry as well as being familiar with your individual company and area.